Posts tagged ‘essay’

December 28, 2018

#143) How not to complain #7: Yes, we suck, but…

It’s no secret that the United States of America isn’t perfect. That said, I find that the “I’ve Been To 53,000 Countries And This Is What America Is Doing Wrong” trope has run its course. It’s one thing to bring up meaningful ways in which the U.S. can learn from the rest of the world, but some of the stuff I’ve seen just makes me wonder how much time the authors have on their hands. (Yes, I realize the pot just called the kettle black). Case in point: “The Way American Parents Think About Chores Is Bizarre” by Joe Pinsker.

I have to admit, the title piqued my interest. The government is shut down, wildfires have recently decimated California and the problem is The Way American Parents Think About Chores? Not knowing whether to expect tongue in cheek or unintentional comedy, I climbed aboard.

As it turns out, Pinsker cites some valid, sane points. One quote is from Arizona State University psychologist Suniya Luthar: “How sustainable is it if you’re going to pay a child a dime for each time he picks his clothes up off the floor…are you saying…you’re owed something just for taking care of your stuff?” Says New York Times finance columnist Ron Lieber: “Chores need to be done, and not with the expectation of compensation… Allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”

Fair enough, but where the article runs out of gas is the comparison to other countries, to which only the last three paragraphs are devoted. Thus, the piece falls into a rut I’ve found to be common to this sort of content (which, I’ll admit, I’ve probably spent more time reading than I should). Many authors seem to enjoy describing how the American way of doing something sucks more than analyzing why the other country is better and what can be learned from it.

In the latter part of the piece, Pinsker only cites one source: anthropology professor David Lancy, who argues that parents should harness kids’ natural desire to help out once they start showing it (18 months) before they learn to want something in exchange (6-7 years). There are no examples of this idea at work in other countries and its effects. How has parents not giving kids an allowance for doing chores in Agrabah made it a better country?

To be sure, Pinsker did capture my attention, if only because his premise was one that I simply wouldn’t have considered on my own. That being said, I’m not quite ready to email his article to all the mom bloggers that I know. Call it my white privilege or indifference but if Pinsker’s goal was to get me whipped up in a lather about what American kids do for an allowance, he was a few bullet points short.


November 30, 2015

#101) How not to complain #3: Noah Henry

Dear Mr. Henry,

First things first: I’m on your team. As a musician myself I couldn’t agree more with the basic premise of your recent article on Mandatory, “11 Reasons Music Sucks Now Worse Than Ever”. As someone who has been complaining about virtually everything for longer than you’ve been alive, however, I have a few suggestions.

You see, as enjoyable an activity as complaining is, it’s all the more rewarding when you get some sort of result for your efforts. My goal is to take your inherent love of music and your disdain for today’s climate and help you turn these feelings into something that may inspire action for your readers.


Right off the bat, you claim that “it’s been…proven that repeated exposure to a song makes you like it more.” Where? In my experience, it’s been the exact opposite: 25 years ago I listened to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Hotel California” in complete reverence; now I instantly turn the station when I hear a single sixteenth note. I’d also like to see a link to the Scientific American article you quote at the end of your piece.


There’s no such thing as agenda-free statistics; numbers can always be curated to suit the purpose of the curator. Yours don’t really tell a story. For example, so what that Zeppelin hasn’t had a number one hit and Rihanna has had 13? Apples and oranges. Michael Jordan never threw a touchdown pass; Ghandi was never voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive.


If all you do is get people who already agree with you to continue agreeing with you, you haven’t gained any ground. Yes, “the Billboard 100 is full of idiots, morons and losers.” Yes, “focus groups rule the artist.” Yes, “Everything is safe and easily digestible like baby food.” The indie songwriter reading this on a laptop connected to the internet via the neighbor’s wifi feels you, but your audience will be limited unless you are willing to reach across enemy lines. Most Taylor Swift fans are going to check out of itemized rants about how much she sucks after the first bullet point.


Long all you like for the days of Everclear, Third Eye Blind, the Wallflowers and Sugar Ray and the other bands that represent your good ol’ days of music; to me, they’re really not that different from Fun, Maroon 5 and Coldplay. (Okay, I guess Coldplay really are in a class by themselves when it comes to suck.) Today’s young Turk is tomorrow’s “Kids these days…” guy; in 30 years, graying millenials will wonder what the hell mid 21st century young’ns see in whatever tops the 2045 Billboard Hot 100. It’s hard to control peoples’ opinions. Respecting theirs, however inane they may seem, is the best way to be heard yourself. Sometimes people just need time to outgrow stuff.


Like Lynn Shepherd, the author whose JK Rowling rant backfired, you don’t seem to have a clear result you’d like to see. For example, what are the bands we should be listening to instead of the truffle butter (see what I did) that’s out there? In fact you explicitly bypass the issue, working in a potshot at hipsters in the process (say what you will about them, at least they’re at every crafts fair from Silver Lake to Brooklyn supporting their favorite cajon, ukulele and didgeridoo dubstep trio). Should we boycott Justin Bieber? Burn Adele pictures in effigy? Send our local radio stations vinyl copies of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to play instead of the latest offering from Ke$ha?

I know you mean well; you obviously care about music and I appreciate that. I hope that you’re able to find ways to get your message across that are inspiring, actionable and maybe just a little humorous. (Your opening line about only slitting your wrists three times while listening to the new Selena Gomez album is a good start; you may want to check out Axis of Awesome’s “Four Chords” video for more ideas.) Nothing gets done if someone doesn’t kvetch about it and with a little fine tuning, I believe you will soon be complaining with the best of them.

All the best

David Lockeretz


June 27, 2011

#15) Shout-out to another D: My Top Ten David Sedaris Quotes

#10) “You can suck the cream out of my grand-daddy’s withered old cum-stained cock before I ever…let you look into this motherfucking baby’s wrinkly-assed face.”  (From “C.O.G.”, dialogue Sedaris overheard on a cross-country bus trip)

#9) “My home – well, one of my homes – is on the garden tour, so I’ve got to get back to Williamsburg.” (From “The Ship Shape”; dialogue Sedaris and his mother overheard at a dry cleaner in Raleigh)

#8) “There’s only so much you can do for someone who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer.” (From “C.O.G.”)

#7) “It had now become the kind of masturbation that’s an act of determination, not pleasure.” (From “Blood Work”)

#6) “I’m the stepsister of Jesus Christ sent back to earth to round up all the lazy, goddamned niggers and teach them to cook ribs the way they was meant to be cooked, goddamn it.”  (From “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!”; said by a woman at the nursing home where Sedaris’s grandmother lived)

#5) “I hate to bother you, but I’m going to lie down for a while…if for some reason I don’t wake up, I’m wondering if you could possibly insert this into my anus.” (From “Blood Work”; Sedaris is cleaning the house of a client who recently recovered from surgery)

#4) “He must truly believe in miracles if he thought I’d ask a complete stranger if she accepted deliveries in the rear.” (From “C.O.G.”, describing a trip to a crafts fair in Portland, OR with a man who called himself a “Child of God”)

#3) “I couldn’t read the phrase ‘He paunched his daughter’s rock-hard nopples’ without thinking of Gretchen barricading herself in her room.”  (From “Next of Kin”; describing a poorly edited adult novel that Sedaris and his sisters read)

#2) “I was then to suggest that the hook-nosed Jew bastard could shove his delivery charge up his ass.”  (From “That’s Amore”, in which Sedaris’s elderly neighbor enlists him to help negotiate with the local pharmacist)

And the number one David Sedaris quote of all time…..

“They’re not little creatures!  They’re tool people!” (From “The Girl Next Door”)